I heart Twitter. I probably heart Twitter a little too much, in fact, which is why I have to stay away from it when I'm on deadline. I know some people call it a time-suck, but I would say that it's only as much a time suck as, say, a great library or book store or museum. Yes, you can spend lots and lots of time there, but that's because there's so much to learn, so many amazing people to meet and so much opportunity to expand horizons.
However, the actual application itself, as found at www.twitter.com is less than elegant. Luckily, there are many tools out there to help you organize and streamline your Twitter experience.
A lot of people reading this blog probably already know about those tools. This isn't for you. Go along now. Show's over. Nothing to see here.
For the rest of you, like many of the wonderful people I met at this week's Museums in Conversation conference (people who were too busy running major cultural institutions to get all riled up about the latest Facebook design change), this post is an introduction to some tools that will make Twitter a little easier for you.
Smashing Magazine has a post about 99 "Essential" Twitter Applications. It's a good resource, and fairly thorough as of ... NOW. (PS outdated as of ... now.) But I can't think of 99 examples of anything that are really and truly essential.
So, if you're just starting with Twitter, I would say that the only essential Twitter application, apart from Twitter itself, is an application that helps you manage and organize the information that flows in.
There are several applications out there, including Twhirl, Tweetdeck and a host of others that I won't spend a lot of time on because I haven't used them. However, I invite anyone who has used them to leave comments with what you love or don't love.
Currently, I use Tweetdeck. You can download it at www.tweetdeck.com. When I did so, I got some kind of scary prompt about downloading it that caused me to call in a colleague who knows more about these things than I. He looked at it, assured me it was okay, and I have not had any problems.
Why I Like Tweetdeck:
- Instead of giving you all that Twitter content in one stream, it organizes it in columns: All Tweets, Replies, Direct Messages, etc.
- I can set up searches and get a constant stream of results. If I ran a wallpaper museum, I could set up a search for "historic wallpaper" and see conversations happen as they were happening.
- It makes it easy to shorted web addresses. If I want to postg a lin k to another website in an update, I don't have to open a separate window or go to another address to do it. There's a field right under the update field where I can paste a long web address (or URL) and hit the "shorten" button, and it automatically shortens it AND puts it in my post with one click.
- It sits on my desktop, separate from my web browser or Internet window, so I can work on other things and not have to check in with the main Twitter address.
There are also a few things that don't thrill me - the interface is large for a desktop application, that warning prompt worried me, the new activity audio alert interrupts my music enjoyment. But none of those things have irritated me enough to make me stop using it.